Tuesday, August 5, 2014
#WeirdEd Week 17: The Public
Ah, the court of public opinion. Thanks to the internet everyone is allowed to express their views in a manner that makes them easily share-able, mock-able, and get-unreasonably (or, rarely, reasonably)-angry-about-able. And because we are teachers we key in on public opinions that have to do with us. Naturally. We don't really care what everyone has to say about plumbers. Not in a deep, meaningful way. If your neighbor makes fun of his plumber you laugh along with him. If your neighbor makes fun of his kid's teacher we take to the internets to blog with great vengeance.
If it sounds like I'm mocking people who blog with great anger I'm not. I'm the guy who made this, this, and this. To be fair, I try not to be negative that often and I also made this and this. But we do like to get angry at the general public for their views on teaching. And we really like to get angry (or get behind) famous people. Because famous means better informed, I guess.
The first of our two favorite celebrities right now are Louis CK, who tweeted a rant against Common Core a few months ago and was crowned King Of Education Policy by people who have no idea he also has a five minute long "suck a bag of dicks" routine (which is hilarious). And I like Louis CK, but come on, if a parent at your school ripped on how you taught you'd ask them how long they went to school to be a teacher. He's a comedian and a parent. An excellent, smart comedian, but still not actually an expert in what we do, how we do it, or how those decisions get made.
The second is Whoopi "Guinan" Goldberg, who is in hot water because she said on her show that she's against teacher tenure for bad teachers. For the record, I like tenure, it's an important protection we have. But, her argument, as poorly thought out as it might be, is being lost in the outrage. As far as I can tell, she's against bad teachers having it.* Which leads us down the road of define a bad teacher, rate a teacher, no you suck and your show is dumb.
We overreact when famous people talk about our cause because we don't feel our voices are loud enough on our own. Famous people own megaphones much bigger than any we have. Millions (I assume) of people saw Whoopi talk about tenure on her show. 3.6 million people follow Louis CK on Twitter, most of whom are probably real people. But we forget that these people have no idea what they are talking about. Or we remember that and it pisses us off more. Because they are talking to people we have to deal with. Our parents watch those shows, follow those people, see those clips online out of context. And we know people are teeeerrrrriiibbbblle at context. It's one of the reasons we (I) teach deeper reading so hard. So my kids grow up knowing to look closer at an edited video clip presented as whole.
So let's talk about the court of public opinion and what we can do about it. How do people feel about teachers in general? Education in general? What do you think? Are there things we can do to sway the public? What's a good way and a bad way to get people to listen to us? At what point do we become unprofessional about it and lose public trust that way? At what point do we become Chicken Little and lose credibility because Everything Is Awful All The Time? At what point do we say, "Screw them, they don't get it." How deeply do we, should we, could we engage? How deeply do you engage? Online? In the newspaper (people still read those?)? In person?
It occurs to me this might not be as silly a topic as some others. Sorry kids, can't have ice cream all the time and this is important to education.
*For the record, she's wrong. But not for the reasons she's defending herself against. And the massive hatewave doesn't help us at all.